In the realm of crisis management, where swift and efficient communication can mean the difference between life and death, the concept of interoperability takes center stage. One particularly complex area within this context is the management of Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and Explosives (CBRN-E) events. These events demand seamless collaboration between various entities responsible for public safety and security. Standardizing the digital chain-of-custody can significantly enhance interoperability, particularly in the CBRN-E end-user community and other entities involved in crisis management.
Interconnectedness for Crisis Management Success
Crisis management is a complex orchestration of efforts that span multiple teams, systems, tools, and operational procedures. This interconnectedness becomes even more crucial in scenarios involving CBRN-E risks and threats. Whether it’s addressing cross-border security challenges or global health crises like epidemics and pandemics, effective crisis management hinges on the ability of diverse teams to communicate and cooperate seamlessly.
CBRN-E Complexity: A Multisectoral Challenge
CBRN-E incidents and emergencies introduce an inherent complexity to crisis management. A myriad of entities, from hazmat and sampling teams to decontamination and triage experts, laboratories, and transportation units, must collaborate seamlessly to mitigate these risks. Often, this collaboration spans international borders, necessitating robust interoperable systems that enable the harmonious interaction of specialized teams and laboratories.
Chain-of-Custody: A Critical Component
Maintaining the integrity of evidence is paramount in crisis management, particularly in CBRN-E events. The chain-of-custody, a record of the chronological history of evidence, ensures the legitimacy and reliability of collected samples. Standardized procedures for maintaining the chain-of-custody are crucial, not only for data quality but also for legal proceedings. Each step in the chain plays a vital role in preserving the integrity of the evidence, from its initial discovery to its presentation in court.
In the digital age, evidence isn’t confined to physical samples; digital evidence plays a pivotal role. However, digital evidence is susceptible to easy modification and destruction, posing unique challenges to maintaining its integrity. The ease of copying, transferring, altering, and deleting digital data demands new approaches to chain-of-custody practices.
Bridging the Gap with a Standardized Framework
Recognizing the gaps between traditional chain-of-custody practices and the needs of digital evidence, the STRATEGY project proposes an integrated framework. This framework addresses the challenges of the digital chain-of-custody (dCoC) by establishing standardized practices that guarantee the integrity and security of digital evidence throughout the process. The framework fosters consistency among stakeholders within and across EU member states, ensuring a cohesive approach to digital evidence management.
Collaboration for Progress
To cement the significance of this framework, collaboration with CEN/TC 391 has resulted in the development of two Technical Specifications. These specifications were validated through tabletop and field training exercises, enhancing their practical applicability. As these specifications are proposed as new work items, the aim is to establish a standard that governs the digital chain-of-custody process in the CBRN-E domain. These developments mark a promising leap towards improving digital evidence management in the domain of crisis management, for CBRN-E events.
In the evolving landscape of crisis management, where CBRN-E events demand exceptional collaboration and efficiency, the standardization of digital chain-of-custody processes emerges as a vital advancement. The ability to maintain the integrity of evidence, whether physical or digital, ensures the credibility of crisis management efforts, legal proceedings, and public safety overall. The ongoing efforts of projects like STRATEGY and collaborations with entities like CEN/TC 391 promise to revolutionize crisis management practices and bolster interoperability, ultimately safeguarding societies in times of need.
Authors: Júlio Gouveia-Carvalho & Wilson Antunes, Military Academy Research Center (CINAMIL) – Portuguese Army.